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Danger flagged of unpatrolled waters on North Shore

Swimming at Noosa Main Beach offers the safety of flagged areas.
Swimming at Noosa Main Beach offers the safety of flagged areas. Geoff Potter

NOOSA North Shore right through to Rainbow Beach has been named as the state's sixth worst black spot for surf safety, according to a Surf Life Saving Queensland report.

This strip came in just behind Fraser Island's ocean side for risk to swimmers, while Discovery Beach to Point Arkwright was the fourth worst black spot, according to the Coast Safe Report 2016.

Surfers Paradise, Green Island and a stretch through to Southport Strip were the three top danger spots identified by SLSQ.

There were 11 drownings on Queensland beaches last season, including one at Teewah.

There were three more in the Sunshine Coast region at Maroochydore, Warana and Kings Beaches - all at unpatrolled locations or outside of patrol times.

In the past 10 years, there has been a total of 81 drownings on Queensland beaches, with 21 of these occurring on the Sunshine Coast, including the Noosa and Gympie region.

Proposed SLSQ actions to improve safety from Noosa River to Rainbow Beach include:

  • Implement Australian Standard safety signage at six key locations to identify key hazards and potential dangers.
  • Develop surf-safety collateral to be distributed on the barge and within localised campsites.
  • Install key signage to assist with rip identification at campsites and other key locations.
  • Build upon existing aerial patrols via SLSQ's Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service to cover Teewah Beach, Freshwater camping area and Rainbow Beach tower on weekends and public holidays.

SLSQ coastal safety officer Chantel Fife said the organisation would continue to work closely with councils, tourism agencies and beachgoers to improve coastal safety on the Sunshine Coast.

"Moving forward, we'll continue to investigate and explore all options when it comes to saving lives, but at the same time we're pleading with beachgoers to help us out as well,” she said.

"In recent years we've expanded our services and significantly increased patrol times, and in doing so we've made it easier than ever for people to find and swim at patrolled locations.

"Unfortunately, that message clearly isn't getting through and we're continuing to see people risk their own lives, and the lives of our patrolling members, by swimming outside of the red and yellow flags,” she said.

In the next 12 months, SLSQ will be rolling out new technology and extended services on the Sunshine Coast, but Mrs Fife said the rollout didn't change her advice to stick to the flagged areas.

"Of the 11 beach-related coastal drowning deaths that occurred in Queensland during 2015-16, it is pertinent to note that 10 of these were male (91%),” the report said.

"This is slightly higher than the 10-year average of 86.4%, and supports the notion that males are a high-risk group, having been traditionally over-represented in state drowning figures.

"In 2015-16, 82% of drowning victims were Australian residents, representing a sizeable increase when compared to the 10-year average of 58%. By comparison, two victims, or 18%, were born overseas,” the report stated.

The average age of beach-related coastal drowning victims in 2015-16 was 44.5 years, up from an average age of 41 years the previous year.

"Tragically, despite SLSQ's best efforts and endeavours, we continue to see people losing their lives on Queensland beaches,” SLSQ chief executive officer John Brennan said.

"These drownings have only served to strengthen our resolve as we move into the 2016-17 season, and we remain more committed than ever to saving lives and eliminating drownings.”

A national SLSA survey of 1500 people aged 16-79 found 41% believed the beach was 'not very hazardous' or 'not at all hazardous'.

The report said 72% of respondents rated their swimming ability as 'average' or below, while 81% rated their swimming ability in the ocean as 'average' or below.


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